Some of the most common neighbor disputes include noise, pets, children, your home’s aesthetic, property boundaries, suspected criminal behavior, building violations, and parking.
If you find yourself in one of these sticky situations (and you don’t want to draw the attention of other residents by involving the homeowners association), here’s a recommended course of action from IKO Community Management:
- Talk to your neighbor. Sometimes people aren’t aware that they’re doing something to bother you. A good first step is to schedule a face-to-face meeting to tell them about your concerns. If you can talk it out, you’re good to go for the future. Here are a few tips:
- Assume the other person is unaware of the problem, or be open and pleasant when discussing it.
- Use problem-solving phrases, such as "How do you suggest we approach this?" or "I think I have a solution.”
- Don’t leave the door open. Try to solve the dispute as quickly and calmly as possible, so no one can overthink the situation.
- Avoid discussing this with other homeowners unless you strongly believe that they have an issue, too.
- Put your complaints on paper. If your face-to-face meeting didn’t yield the desired results or they didn’t keep their word, it’s time to write down your concerns. Start a log to track the annoying activity then identify what type of neighbor dispute you’re having, whether it’s legal, property-based, noise, or other reason.
Next, look at your HOA’s bylaws or county ordinances to cross-reference your complaint and the community’s law. If you find a problem, make a copy of the paper and send both documents to your neighbor with an explanation that you’d like to resolve this dispute without going to the HOA board or authorities.
- Go to the mediation committee, or hire local mediation services. This is a less expensive option compared to legal action, and most HOAs come with a mediation subcommittee or board that’s in charge of handling neighbor disputes.
If you’d rather keep your homeowners assocation out of it, research local mediation services. Schedule a date and location, and they’ll send a third-party professional to sit down with you and your neighbor with the goal of compromising.
- Go to the police. It’s important to realize that the police can help only in specific circumstances, when your neighbor's actions or behaviors violate local or state ordinances. For example, they can help contain noise after certain hours and an illegally parked vehicle, but they can’t do much for a dangerous tree limb.
This occasion is when the written log and formal complaint can come in handy. The police will take this and interview other neighbors to solve the problem.
- Look into small claims court. By this time, most homeowners would find a way to peacefully co-exist. If your neighbor is still giving you problems, it’s time to look into going to small claims court -- even if it’s upsetting for both parties.
Because most states say you’re entitled to "quiet or peaceful enjoyment" of your home, you can likely ask for compensation for the nuisance and subsequent loss of rightful enjoyment.
You should come up with a justifiable, reasonable sum. For example, you can ask for up to $5,000 in Maryland, according to The People’s Law Library of Maryland, but you should keep in mind that win or lose, you still have to live near your neighbor.
- Follow up on the court decision. Even if you win in small claims court, your dispute might not be fully resolved. After you collect damages, discuss the next steps with the court clerk.
According to a 2013 survey by FindLaw, 40 percent of people said the matter was mutually settled without third-party intervention. If you’re one of these lucky residents, congratulations! If you’re not so lucky, consider taking one of IKO’s recommended courses of action.
You can also download our guide to building long-lasting, positive relationships in your community by clicking below: